I’m hoping that reading my story has encouraged you or opened your eyes to a reality you may have been previously unaware of
or now, we’ve reached the end of this story, though I’m looking forward to letting you know when I get engaged and embark on my next chapter.
When the idea of sharing my story first came up, I was hesitant. I’m a private person by nature. And aside from the matter of my privacy, I wondered how my story would be received by you, the readers, and what impact, if any, it might have.
I decided to go for it.
First, I wanted to shine a light on an experience a lot of you haven’t experienced. Many frum girls aren’t familiar with this perspective, and I was glad to share it with you. I believe people should share their stories, as it enables others to become aware of what other people experience. When we gain a greater appreciation of others’ experiences, it helps us become more empathetic and understanding.
By sharing my experiences and perspective, perhaps there can be greater acceptance and understanding of geirim in our communities. Maybe it can become less foreign, less scary; more human.
The second reason I chose to tell my story was for those who went through, or are going through, similar experiences. Perhaps my story can help those girls feel seen and validated.
So whether you’re a convert yourself, your family is coming closer to Yiddishkeit, or you’ve been Jewish and frum your entire life, I’m hoping that reading my story has encouraged you or opened your eyes to a reality you may have been previously unaware of.
Over the course of reading my experiences, you may have noticed that I mentioned the borders we create between ourselves, borders we seem to think are so important. These are artificial, invisible lines. They cause anxiety and suspicion. We sort of forget that we invented these borders; they weren’t there before. They weren’t there at Har Sinai. Let’s bring down those walls. Let’s open the door for more understanding, happiness, kindness, and acceptance.
I’m not a teen anymore. There are a good few years between me and the experiences you read about here. Yes, these experiences were formative and important. But as I got older and met different kinds of people, my perspective settled.
At the time I was going through these things, they felt huge. Eventually I realized that the world is made up of many different kinds of people, and that everyone is struggling with something. Whatever it is that you’re struggling with today; I want you to know that I get it. Right now, you may feel isolated, and it’s difficult. I want you to know that it does get better. The teen years seem endless, but they do end.
Things also get better because we grow, we develop, and our brain actually gets better at thinking. The prefrontal cortex in the brain (the part that makes decisions, calculates consequences, controls problem solving and impulses) develops and matures during the teen years, but it continues developing all through the early twenties. You only have a fully mature prefrontal cortex at age 25!
This is one of the reasons that for teens everything is so huge and urgent, and all-encompassing; your prefrontal cortex isn’t yet fully developed. Teens often feel like they are swallowed by their problems, and that’s normal. As the prefrontal cortex matures, so do our problem-solving abilities. Then we feel less stuck in whatever our issues are. We have more tools with which to think and not remain trapped in anxiety or negativity. We earn a broader perspective, things become clearer, we become smarter, and our emotional life becomes less overwhelming than it was as a teen.
Even though we changed names and locations, it took courage to publish this story. For years, I felt like I had to hide it. Geirim in yeshivish communities don’t always feel appreciated and accepted by their peers. Maybe we can change that.
But until we do, I still remain—
proud to be a Jew.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 951)
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